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A haven for Aids orphans

As the Aids pandemic continues to take its toll on Zambians, a local NGO is striving to better the lives of children orphaned by the deadly scourge.
Frank Bwalya

Twafwane orphanage is one charitable organization, which has gone a long way to fulfill its mission in saving the last remaining children whose parents, in most cases, have died of the dreaded Aids pandemic. Opened in 1997, Twafwane has a day care nursery, which has seen a number of orphans pass through it.

‘Twafwane’, a term derived from the chief language spoken among the Bemba people in Northern Zambia, translated loosely means "let us assist one another". Vice-chairman Evaristo Sampa is the care-taker of the orphanage and speaks highly of the sustainable efforts the orphanage has put in place.

The issue of HIV/AIDS in Zambia has continued to wreak havoc in a country with an estimated total population of about 10 million inhabitants. The AIDS pandemic has put a severe strain on some families where children are neglected or abandoned. Official statistics indicate that over 650 000 children in Zambia today have been orphaned by AIDS since the first case was diagnosed over 18 years ago. At least one in every five Zambians lives with HIV or has full blown AIDS. About 2.4 million people in Zambia face starvation and need emergency food supplies until March next year. But the issue of poverty combined with AIDS in Zambia is not only confined to the urban centres. It is more glaring in rural areas such as Mungwi, which is a rural outpost in the northern part of the country, about 1000km from Lusaka, the Zambian capital.

Against this background, the Catholic community in its continued endeavour to help the underprivileged people in society has taken upon itself to open up an orphanage to look after the disadvantaged children.

The Catholic parish of Mungwi District with full financial backing from Austria supports the orphanage. However, in its quest to sustain itself, the orphanage has, additionally, developed a number of income generating ventures.

Sampa says Twafwane orphanage has realised the growing importance of feeding children, the more reason a plot of food crops was cultivated. The plot has a section of bananas,tomatoes, and other vegetables.

In October last year, the orphanage also embarked on an ambitious poultry project aimed at income generating for the smooth running of the centre. Initially, the orphanage began by rearing 45 layers to provide food as well as income. Todate, there are over 90 layers in addition to village chickens. This is a commendable feat.

"Twafwane orphanage is a classic case of a non governmental organisation doing its best to save mankind from ravages of poverty," quipped Sampa. "Although we receive support from the Catholic Parish, local donors should show interest to assist orphans."

Sister-in-charge Maria Fur’hapter says the orphanage has great plans to reach out as many children as possible. Hence she has a clarion appeal to the local donors so that the centre keeps running.

Originally, she said, the orphanage was to be a boarding but because of the prospect of an influx of unscrupulous people swamping the centre, Twafwane is a drop-in centre for the disadvantaged children and children in need.

The centre offers free food and also runs a nursery , where children get free education . This is a unique orphanage in that it is situated in the typical rural Zambia where infrastructure and other social amenities are non-existent.

As sister Fur’hapter says the centre is aiming at being self-sufficient in food provisions, the more reason why a poultry and vegetable plot were put up to provide food as well as generate income. Every orphan qualifies to join the centre. "The orphanage and the training centre is not just for the Catholics alone .You see, there are absolutely no religious restrictions "it has no boundaries-cuts across all religious boundaries," Fur’hapter says.

Moreover, the centre caters for malnourished children who are looked after by the club. The centre also encompasses a mother’s shelter, where foster parents are housed. The Centre needs all the support it deserves for the noble cause it is championing.

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